“Most of us don’t live in a world where one person is the ultimate decider – because, over and over again, we’ve discovered that better decisions are made when they’re made in communities with appropriate checks and balances. Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny and corruption.”
-Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, speaking to the continuing Episcopalians in the State of South Carolina, Jan 26th, 2013 (ENS Article , emphasis mine)
I find myself in unfamiliar territory today: I agree with the Presiding Bishop...at least on the above quote. While railing against Bishop Lawrence of the departed Diocese of South Carolina, she unwittingly criticized him for alleged behavior that is far more characteristic of her behavior as the Presiding Bishop. Does she really not see the irony dripping off the above quote!? Perhaps the plank in her eye is obscuring her vision.
To compare the mentality of a brother bishop to school shooters (see here), or to call him and presumably those close to him "petty deciders or wolves who masquerade as sheep" is incredibly inappropriate for any Christian, not to mention bizarre. I truly have never before heard or read such a spiteful and hate-fueled speech on either side of our present unpleasantness. This type of hateful and over the top language is even worse coming from a leader who claims to speak for the "national Church" and all Episcopalians. Let me be clear: I am an Episcopal priest and the Presiding Bishop does not speak for me. I have no delusion that I share in any ownership of anything outside of my parish and my diocese. The idea that one person, even if one agrees with the present incumbent, can speak for all Episcopalians is sheer lunacy.
To be fair, this centralization of power and influence certainly did not start with the present Presiding Bishop, but we do well to consider the state in which we find ourselves. Power corrupts, and the Presiding Bishop rightly notes that when one figure assumes the power it often leads to abuse, tyranny and corruption. She apparently fails to see how this truth has been demonstrated in her term as Presiding Bishop. Fast tracking bishops to "renounce their orders" rather than letting the House of Bishops speak, inhibiting without the consent of the three most senior active bishops (which the new Title IV conveniently does not require), and setting up new dioceses (which TEC has every right to do) while violating the canons of TEC all point to an office that has overgrown its canonical bounds and is running unchecked.
We are a church of checks and balances, at least on paper. Parishes can't call a rector without the consent of the Diocesan. Bishops can't ordain without the consent of the Standing Committee. The canons protect all involved: the clergy from the bishop, the clergy from the people, and the people from the clergy. At the parish level and the diocesan level we see this truth played out, but not at the "national" level. Here, as has been documented over years by folks more informed than me, we see a bloated bureaucracy operating unchecked and at many times against the canons that are supposed to keep it and all of us in line.
There is much more I would like to say, but the Presiding Bishop makes the argument against centralized power far better than I could at the moment. If you are an Episcopalian, and especially if you are an Episcopalian who disagrees with what I have written, I urge you to go read the Presiding Bishop's "sermon" for yourself. I welcome all dialogue, especially from those who have actually read what the Presiding Bishop said.
I am sad that the Presiding Bishop can't seem to go about the business of organizing a group of remaining Episcopalians without resulting to volleying some of the most bizarre and spiteful language I have witnessed against another group of Christians who could not in good conscience go along with her way of doing things. If we are to have splits, and we are, we need to part as brothers and sisters in Christ in such a manner that we may have some shred of hope to proclaim the love of Christ to the world even after they've watched us fight.
Regardless of your bias in this particular situation, I urge you to pray for the Church. Pray that when the dust settles we will still have some legitimacy left to proclaim the Gospel to this broken and sinful world.
Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it
with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt,
purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is
amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in
want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake
of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. (BCP 1979, p. 816)